Humanities Indicators
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Workforce  >  Earnings & Occupations of Humanities Majors
 
Occupations of Humanities Majors with a Terminal Bachelor’s Degree
(Updated February 2018)

The national discussion about the economic value of a college education tends to revolve around the outcomes of “humanities majors.” This framing, however, masks important differences between two distinct groups: (1) graduates for whom a baccalaureate was the last of their formal schooling; and (2) those humanities majors who went on to complete an advanced degree in the humanities or another field. The indicators below describe how workers with terminal bachelor’s degrees in the humanities are distributed among occupations. As is true of humanities majors who go on to pursue advanced degrees, these workers are more likely than their counterparts with baccalaureate degrees in the other major academic fields (with the exception of education majors) to be working in education-related occupations.[1]

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, 57% of terminal bachelor’s degree holders (TBHs) in the humanities had worked in the broad category of “management, professional, and related occupations” in the previous five years (Indicator III-3a).[2] Slightly over 15% of those TBHs worked as managers. Another 12% of humanities TBHs were found in education-related occupations, with 60% of them in precollegiate teaching. The two next most prevalent types of occupations in the management and professional category were (1) business and financial operations and (2) arts, design, entertainment, and media (accounting for 10% and 8% of TBHs).
  • Approximately 14% of TBHs in the humanities worked in office and administrative support occupations. A slightly smaller proportion, 13%, worked in sales, while 9% held service jobs.
  • Policymakers have recently focused a considerable amount of attention on the preparation of workers for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) occupations. A small proportion of humanities TBH’s were employed in STEM jobs, with 3.5% working in computer-related occupations, 2.8% in healthcare, and 1.6% in science and engineering professions. (The proportions for the latter two occupations were higher among humanities majors who went on to earn an advanced degree.)
  • Although humanities majors were less likely than those in most other fields to be employed in jobs classified here as professional, managerial, or related occupations, humanities majors were the likeliest (apart from those who majored in education) to work in the education field (Indicator III-3b).
  • The share of humanities TBHs working in office and administrative support, sales, or service occupations (37%), was comparable to the share among behavioral and social sciences TBHs (40%) and business TBHs (36%).
  • Approximately 16% of humanities TBHs worked in “applied humanities” occupations that allow for direct application of knowledge and skills cultivated in the field. These occupations include education-related jobs (although the data do not indicate whether these humanities TBHs were employed teaching humanities subjects or administering programs with a humanities orientation); museum and library professionals; writers; news analysts, reporters, and correspondents; editors (text); and tour and travel guides.[3]
III-3a: Occupational Distribution of Holders of a Terminal Bachelor’s Degrees in the Humanities,* 2015

* Employed at any time in the previous five years. Reported jobs are those respondents currently held or the last they worked. Respondents who worked more than one job at a time were asked to report the job at which they worked the most hours.
** Includes educational administrators, teaching assistants, and workers categorized by the U.S. Census Bureau as “other teachers and instructors.”
† Encompasses military-specific occupations and those in production, transportation, and material moving; construction, extraction, maintenance, and repair; and farming, fishing, and forestry. For further details regarding the occupations included in each category used in the graph, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

About this DataRelated Indicators
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III-3b: Occupational Distribution of Holders of a Terminal Bachelor’s Degree,* by Undergraduate Major, 2015

* Employed at any time in the previous five years. Reported jobs are those respondents currently held or the last they worked. Respondents who worked more than one job at a time were asked to report the job at which they worked the most hours.
** Includes science and engineering occupations, among others.
† Encompasses military-specific occupations and those in production, transportation, and material moving; construction, extraction, maintenance, and repair; and farming, fishing, and forestry. For further details regarding the occupations included in each category used in the graph, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

About this DataRelated Indicators
../cmsData/xls/suppIII-3b.xlsx../cmsData/ppt/III-3b.ppt../cmsData/pdf/III-3b.pdf

Endnotes

[1] For information regarding the occupational distribution of all humanities majors, irrespective of subsequent education, see Supplemental Table III-3.
[2] Reported jobs are those respondents currently held or the last they worked. Respondents who worked more than one job at a time were asked to report the job at which they worked the most hours.
[3] TBHs in “applied humanities” occupations include educators (11.7% of all humanities TBHs); writers (1.6%); editors (1.1%); news analysts, reporters, and correspondents (0.4%); museum and library professionals (0.6%); and tour and travel guides (0.1%).